By Alison / Last Updated April 26, 2022

How do I restore VMware VM from backup

Virtual machines are the ideal sandbox environments for performing development and testing. Currently, VMware ESXi and Workstation are respectively the most popular Type 1 and Type 2 hypervisors.

Due to the dangerous nature of the work they deal with, it's necessary to perform virtual machine backups. Its purpose, just like all other backups, is to restore the VM and bring back the important data in the event that the original VM fails or is deleted. So, what exactly to do?

How to restore VMware VM depends on the backup files. Since there is no official standard backup method for VMware, we may take the workarounds of manually copying the VMDK disk file, or exporting the VM as OVF/OVA template. This leads to the fact that when we need to restore, we generally have either the VMDK file (possibly with the VMX file), or the OVF/OVA file in our hands.

In this article, I will introduce you how to restore virtual machine from VMDK file, or OVF/OVA file on VMware ESXi and workstation respectively.

VMware ESXi and Workstation

3 Ways to restore VM from backups in VMware ESXi

VMware ESXi is the most popular enterprise-class Type 1 hypervisor, also known as bare metal hypervisor. It doesn’t need an underlying operating system, runs directly on the physical hardware. Except for the thrid party tools, you can backup VMware ESXi VMs by manually copying the VMDK and VMX files, or export VM as OVF/OVA file.

In this section, I will introduce how to restore VM from these files in VMware ESXi. Besides, these ways can also be helpful if you want to know how to recover deleted VM in ESXi, or to restore VMware ESXi virtual machine to a new host. 

How to restore VM from VMDK file in VMware ESXi

  • Before you begin, please note that the VMDK file of Workstation VM cannot be directly used by ESXi, you need to convert it with VMware Converter first.

1. Access ESXi Web Client, and turn to Storage page, click Datastore browser on toolbar.

Datastore browser

2. In the pop-up window, click Create directory to create a new folder for the new VM. Add the VMDK and the VMX file into this folder.

3. Turn to Virtual Machines page, and click Create/ Register VM on toolbar to open the wizard.

Create or Register VM

4. On Select creation type page, select Register an existing virtual machine, and click Next.

Register an existing VM

5. On Select VMs for registration page, click Select one or more virtual machines, a datastore or a directory, and select the newly created folder. Click Next.

Select one or more VMs, datastore or directory

6. On Ready to complete page, click Finish to close the wizard.

7. Back to the Virtual Machines page, you can see there is one newly virtual machine with the same name as the VMX file. You can right-click the virtual machine and Rename it.

8. Select and Power on the newly created virtual machine. There will be pop-up window, select I moved it and click Answer.

How to import an OVF template in VMware ESXi

1. Access ESXi Web Client, and go to Virtual Machines page. Click Create/ Register VM on toolbar to open the wizard.

2. On Select creation type page, select Deploy a virtual machine from an OVF or OVA file. Then click Next.

Deploy VM from OVF or OVA file

3. On Select OVF and VMDK files page, enter a name (up to 80 characters) for the virtual machine, and then click the blank to select the OVF/OVA file you exported. Click Next.

Select OVF and VMDK files

4. On Select storage page, select the datastore to store the configuration and disk files, then click Next.

5. On Deployment options page, select the Network mappings, Disk provisioning (as Thin), and click Next.

Deployment options

6. Turn to Ready to complete page, review the settings and click Finish to start. You can see the progress in Recent tasks.

7. When it’s done, back to Virtual Machines page and now you can see the newly deployed VM.


Backup and restore multiple ESXi VMs via AOMEI Cyber Backup

The previously described methods can only backup and restore single ESXi VM at a time. It’s inconvenient especially for enterprises that manage a large number of VMs or even multiple hosts. So next I will introduce AOMEI Cyber Backup, a dedicated backup tool that can easily backup multiple ESXi VMs and create a powerful VMware data recovery plan.

To promote efficiency, AOMEI Cyber Backup simplifies the process of backing up multiple VMs in 2 concise steps.

Bind Devices: binding your or VMware ESXi devices on AOMEI Cyber Backup to manage all VMs. It supports VMware 6.0 and all later versions, as well as Windows Server 2012 and all later versions.

Create Backup Tasks: click + Create New Task and provide Task Name, Backup Type, Device, Target, Schedule, and Cleanup to create a complete automatic backup task.

With Backup Cleanup it can auto delete old backup files that exceed the retention period to save disk space.

VMware ESXi backup task

The created backup tasks will be clearly listed with their status and target details, for further managing or restoring.

Here I will show you the specific steps to restore from the created backup tasks. You can click the below button to start a free trial.

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4 simple steps to restore multiple ESXi VMs respectively

1. Click > Restore on the left of the backup task to start setting up the VMware data recovery task.

Restore from backup task

2. Confirm the restore Source task, and click Select Content to specify a restore point.

As you can see, all recovery points related to the VM will be clearly listed with backup type details. Click OK to continue.

Select content

3. Select to Restore to original location or Restore to new location.

By selecting Restore to new location you can restore VMware ESXi VMs to new VM on original or another datastore, host, and change the RAM and Vital Processor according to your needs.

If the task contains multiple VMs, you can restore them to different locations respectively.

Restore to new location

4. Now you can click Start Restore. The details of the recovering process will be displayed in Restore Records.

2 Ways to restore VM from backups in VMware Workstation

VMware Workstation is the most commonly used Type 2 hypervisor, which runs on the top of an operating system of the host machine. It is friendly for individual users. To backup VMware Workstation VMs, copying disk files or exporting to OVF template can also be considered convenient.

In this section, I will introduce you how to restore VM from them in VMware Workstation.

How to restore VM from VMDK file in Workstation

1. Launch VMware Workstation, click File on the toolbar and select New Virtual Machine…

Create new virtual machine

2. In the pop-up wizard, select configuration type as Custom, and click Next.

Configuration type Custom

3. Choose the Hardware compatibility, then click Next.

4. On Guest Operation System Installation page, select I will install the operating system later, and click Next.

Select Install operation system later

5. Select a guest operating system you are going to install, then click Next.

6. Provide a name of the VM and the location where you want to store it, then click Next.

7. Specify the number of Processors, the Memory used, and Network Type for the VM, and click Next.

8. On Select a Disk page, select Use an existing virtual disk, then click Next.

Select use an existing virtual disk

9. On Select an Existing Disk page, click Browse… to select the VMDK file you want to restore.

Select existing virtual disk

10. In the pop-up notification, select Keep Existing Format.

11. Review all the settings and click Finish. Now you can see the new VM is created.

How to import an OVF template in VMware Workstation

1. Launch VMware Workstation, click File on the toolbar and select Open…

Open file

2. In the pop-up window, select the OVF/OVA file you want to import.

3. Provide a name and local storage path for the new virtual machine. Click Import to start.

Provide name and storage path


Since there is no official standard backup method of VMware virtual machines, when we need to restore a VM, we usually need to do it with VMDK and VMX files, OVF/OVA files, or some dedicated backup tools.

In this article, I introduced the specific steps of how to restore virtual machine from VMDK or OVF/OVA file on VMware ESXi and Workstation, to original host or to new host. Hope this could be helpful to you.

And if you want a handy tool that allows you to quickly backup multiple VMs with simple steps, AOMEI Cyber Backup definitely worth a try.